Clare Francis, Author . Soho $25 (304p) ISBN 978-1-56947-325-2

All the inhabitants of the village of Deepwell describe the missing Grace Dearden as the perfect wife: elegant, generous and compassionate. Veteran mystery readers will immediately know that Grace must be exactly the opposite, just as they know that "missing" always means "murdered," but that won't take away from the pleasure of this well-crafted thriller set in the bleak salt marshes of Norfolk, England. Feisty London lawyer Alexandra O'Neill is called on by old friend Will Dearden to help deal with a police force he believes isn't working hard enough to solve his wife's disappearance. As a teenager Alex was in love with Will, though she now finds herself unhappily married to the drunken Paul, an unethical lawyer who eagerly defends the most vile criminals as long as they can pay his hefty fees. These circumstances combine to lure Alex back to Will and her childhood home. There she finds memories of early life and love and a boatload of suspects all with a good reason to whack Grace. Prolific British author Francis (Night Sky) is especially proficient at creating quirky character sketches that spring to life on the page: "She smoked in a grand manner, supported her elbow in the cup of one hand, sweeping the cigarette from her mouth to some point in space in a wide flamboyant arc accompanied be an elegant rotation of the wrist." Fans of the traditional whodunit will enjoy settling back and following the indomitable Alex as she brings to light the revelations and dark secrets submerged by the waters of the menacing marsh. (June)

Forecast:A consistently bestselling author in England, Francis has yet to meet in the U.S. the commercial promise held out by her debut novel, Night Sky; but chances are good that eventually she will tap deeper into the considerable pool of U.S. Brit-crime enthusiasts.

Reviewed on: 04/28/2003
Release date: 07/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 571 pages - 978-0-7838-0203-9
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